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See the Bay Area Winners of the 2024 Audubon Photography Awards

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On their South American wintering grounds on the slopes of the Andes, Blackburnians range through cool, moist forests and mix peacefully among flocks of resident tropical birds. (Mathew Malwitz/Audubon Photography Awards)

Now in its fifteenth year, the Audubon Photography Awards features stunning shots by professionals, amateurs and young photographers that highlight the beauty of birds — and the joy of capturing them on camera.

Winning entries and honorable mentions were chosen from more than 2,300 entrants. Teen Bay Area photographer Parham Pourahmad, 14, was one of those talented winners, receiving the 2024 Audubon Photography Awards’ Youth Prize for his image of two American kestrels standing on a post at Calero County Park in San Jose.

In his winning photo, a female kestrel perches on a post while a male kestrel stands on her back with his wings extended behind him — a side view that makes the two birds look like extensions of each other.

Kestrels make up a group of more than a dozen falcon species, but the American Kestrel—widespread from Alaska to South America—is the only one in the Western Hemisphere. (Parham Pourahmad/Audubon Photography Awards)

Pourahmad captured this photo from a car in a local preserve’s parking lot to ensure he didn’t scare the birds away. And he had a partner in crime to help him do this — his mom.

“My mom drove us around the almost empty parking lot during sunrise,” Pourahmad said. “She positioned me perfectly for this moment when the male flew off to mate with the female. The lighting was perfect.”

American kestrels, formerly known as sparrowhawks, are the smallest and most common falcons in North America. The female kestrel nests in tree holes and other cavities, incubating most of the eggs while the male brings food for the hatchlings.


The pair bonds between kestrels are strong and often permanent. The same birds typically pair up every breeding season (as long as both are alive) but often spend the winter separately, reuniting in spring.

As the Youth Prize winner, Pourahmad will receive six days at Audubon’s Hog Island Audubon Camp for Teens in Maine during the 2025 season.

“I really like the photo that won,” Pourahmad said. “Sometimes I win photo contests, and I feel like my photo didn’t really deserve it, but I think this photo took a lot of work, time and knowledge to get.”

Birds — and their survival — in the spotlight

Pourahmad is not the only Californian to win a prize in this national competition.

Kevin Lohman, a photographer from Santa Cruz, received the first-ever Birds in Landscapes prize for his photo of a California Quail perched on top of a small bush in a field in Santa Cruz. The Birds in Landscapes prize was introduced this year to focus on how birds connect with their broader surroundings.

The well-named California Quail was originally native throughout most of the state, as well as the Baja California peninsula and small parts of Oregon and Nevada. (Kevin Lohman/Audubon Photography Awards)

Audubon’s recent climate science report Survival by Degrees reveals that two-thirds of North American birds are threatened by extinction from climate change. These include several species featured in this year’s Audubon Photography Awards, such as the Blackburnian Warbler, California Quail and Sedge Wren.

Four species of medium-sized terns—Forster’s, Common, Arctic, and Roseate—look confusingly similar. What’s more, they forage in similar ways, by plunging from the air to capture small fish just below the water’s surface. But they differ in breeding habits. (Kevin Lohman/Audubon Photography Awards)

Audubon California protects American Kestrels, California Quails and other birds through on-the-ground conservation and policy efforts across the state. They partner with working lands in the Central Valley and steward California’s coastline to advocate for habitat protections and engage local communities through their centers and sanctuaries.

Ptarmigan are famous for changing their feathers to match either snow in winter or rocky surroundings in summer—a mastery of camouflage that makes them difficult to find all year. (Liron Gertsman/Audubon Photography Awards)

Sabine Meyer, photography director at the National Audubon Society and one of the contest judges, highlighted the “amazing bird behaviors, some of them rarely if ever seen” illustrated by this year’s submissions and the specific “painterly quality” of photographs capturing Willow Ptarmigans, Great-tailed Grackles and California Quail. “They look like tableaux with exquisite compositions,” Meyer said.

Visit the Audubon Society to see all the winning photos.

Because Black-capped Chickadees stay on their northern breeding grounds all year, they must adapt to the changing seasons. These tiny omnivores consume a wide variety of insects, seeds, small fruits, and other fare. (Linda Scher/Audubon Photography Awards)


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